Valentine’s Day – many people have negative feelings about this wonderful holiday because they confuse it with the crass, commercialism it has become known for. Like many other days that have the potential to add so much to our lives, jewelers and card stores have convinced us that it’s the dollar value of love, and not the true feelings, that matter. How many carats do you love me? How many dozen roses do you love me? Do you love me Russel Stover, Godiva or Vosges?
St. Valentine was a Roman priest martyred during the reign of Claudius II for aiding Christians, and for marrying Christian couples. This was during a time of persecution when being Christian was a crime. Claudius took a liking to Valentine, and considered saving him, until Valentine tried to convert Claudius – Valentine died on February 14th. This bit of history is often debated, but it is this version that leads to the day we celebrate now. Some say that Valentine’s Day first is noted in the fourteenth century by Geoffrey Chaucer and his peers as a day to celebrate romantic love, others say it was put forth to supersede pagan celebrations of the times. In the eighteenth century Valentine’s Day was embraced in a more secular way for secret admirers to communicate their desires, and for those in love to acknowledge each other. This is the time where the first notions of what we recognize as Valentines are seen – bits of lace, poetic words and posies are sent hoping for a kind return of sentiment. Flowers at this time were especially sent for their meanings – the flower, its color and the arrangement spoke volumes to the recipient.
Valentine’s Day right now is promoted as a day to impress, make grand gestures and show your love in dollar signs. Prices go up, reservations get scarce and the pressure is on. Roses, chocolate, jewelry and champagne are used to measure the depths of love. This is the Olympics of relationships, it’s time to go big or go home. Many very happy couples can take a hit if the message of love is interpreted as a message of “I forgot and I now give you the best CVS had to offer at 7PM tonight”.
I offer a different approach to the big day of celebrating love – in all the forms it takes in our lives. Perhaps my way of looking at Valentine’s Day is why it truly is and always has been one of my favorite, if not my favorite, holiday. It can truly be a day of giving love, celebrating love and showing love without it necessarily being about romantic love. This allows the celebration to include all of us, young and old, as participants in a world wide love-in. It’s a day to be thankful for the love in our lives from partners as well as children, parents, pets, friends, neighbors and kind strangers. Yes – the strangers that smile at us, hold doors and connect with us, and look us in the eye.
If we choose to we can make this day about showing love. Taking the time to communicate why you love someone rather than the garbled, drive-by “loveyou” we have all adapted as shorthand on the way out of a room, out the door, or on the phone. Spending time in a way you know is meaningful, rather than spending money in a way you know is bartering. Showing love to others through service and kindness rather than checking off cards and chocolate on a “to do” list. In each instance we not only have the capacity to bring more meaningful love into the world, but we have the opportunity to expand our own hearts and drive away the cynical thoughts we may have given in to.
It is said it takes twenty one days to form a habit. Imagine if you choose to celebrate Valentine’s Day my way, and you really liked it? Imagine if you decided this was a great way to be everyday? Imagine how amazing your life might be by March 6th???
Happy Valentine’s Day to all! Go out and spread some love!! xo